Senior Service | Granta

  • Published: 02/05/2013
  • ISBN: 9781847088949
  • Granta Books
  • 480 pages

Senior Service

Carlo Feltrinelli

Giangiacomo Feltrinelli was one of the most arresting and characterful international publishers of his generation, yet he died violently, as a member of an ultra-left group attempting to blow up an electricity pylon. Born into enormous wealth, he found himself equally attracted to great books and workers’ rights. Feltrinelli sponsored two great post-war novels – Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago and The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa. He also published Saul Bellow, Che Guevara, Borges, Doris Lessing and Jack Kerouac in Italy. Despite the attentions of the KGB, Pasternak smuggled his manuscript out of the USSR to Feltrinelli, who then saw to it the the book was published worldwide, and the passionate editor’s intricate, censor-duping correspondence with the besieged writer is relayed in this memoir, in which Feltrinelli’s son Carlo looks back over his father’s life.

Giangiacomo Feltrinelli's life reads like an intellectual thriller in which books and bombings collide, a life fuelled by money, passion and politics, where mansions and libraries are ransacked for clues. Feltrinelli was, according to his son, "a difficult man devoted to a certain type of risk, together with a surprising form of irreverance that speakers of Yiddish as "chutzpah". This was what made his every gesture inexplicably charismatic, even when it wasn't". He wore "stupendous ties", smoked cigarettes that give this book its title, and, even in the words of a conservative American enemy, "conditioned the history of a decade".

Gaby Wood, Observer

A fascinating memoir of this complicated, reckless man


Senior Service has the most sensational, complicated, strangest plot ... A family saga involving Mussolini, Fidel Castro, the last king of Italy, a one-eyed matriarch, Boris Pasternak and the revolutionary heir to a vast fortune ... it is Carlo's storytelling abilities which make it gripping

The Times

The Author

Carlo Feltrinelli lives in Milan, where he runs the family publishing house and a chain of bookshops. This is his first book.

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